Thursday, December 27, 2007

Work is Sacred

For a while, I had been stuggling with fitting my work into the overall vision of my life. How, if at all, does my "mundane" job really connect to my life in God? Is work a "necessary detour" that I must take to get money? If I had more money, would I stop working and focus on "more spiritual" activities like prayer, study and church ministry?

For many, work is just drudgery. But what if the problem was in how we thought of and approached work; how we understood it? A couple of points for people in the working world (and for students) might be helpful.

You got talent!

Its important, and this takes a lot of time - often years - to pin down what your talents are. This is an iterative process. Lots of trial and error. You are hard-wired a certain way (partly due to the environment you were raised in and partly due to the “equipment” you were given at birth). Try to harness who you are, what you are. If you want to live in an earthly hell, focus on who or what others think should be.

For Goodness Sake, Do Something Useful With Yourself.

Once you have figured out, more or less, what it is you are good at, what your basic gifts/skills/talents are, think about how you can use these talents to be useful. This is important for a number of reasons. First, most basically, when we do not feel useful, we feel, well, “useless”. Not a good feeling. Second, we are part of a market economy (more or less). There is no market for what you do or make when no one is willing to pay you to do it. Then you will have no money. As I have gotten older, my eyes have been opened to the problems this causes in individuals and families. Always, ask yourself, “What value am I adding? Why should I be paid for this work?” Secondarily, we arguably have a moral duty to be of use to others.

Be Faithful in Your Work.

Character, it has been said, is what you do when no one is looking. When you are given a task/assignment/project, do it faithfully. Consider it, no matter what it is, your sacred charge. This leads in to the final point.

It is Sacred. Do it Unto God.

Always do what you do in the spirit of prayer. I recommend that one pray before and after a particular task/activity and to remember God while he or she is working. For, we do our work, ultimately, unto the Lord and not unto men. Forget that artificial line we put between the sacred and the profane aspects of our lives. What we do, we do unto the Lord, whether it is to drill a hole, perform legal research, counsel a friend, give a lecture, clean a home, design a webpage or drive a bus. To the Christian, it is all holy, it is all sacred.

Notes:

"Whatever you do, do it heartily, as if unto the Lord." (Col. 3:23).

Brother Lawrence, a simple lay monk of the 17th century wrote:

Nor is it needful that we should have great things to do. . . We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God.
-The Practice of the Presence of God

Article XVI of the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order provides, "Let them esteem work both as a gift and as a sharing in the creation, redemption, and service of the human community."

Article 21 of the Constitutions of the Secular Franciscan Order further develop the concept of work:
For St. Francis, work was a gift and to work was a grace. Daily work is not only the means of livelihood, but the opportunity to serve God and neighbor as well as a way to develop one's own personality. In the conviction that work is a right and a duty and that every form of occupation deserves respect, the brothers and sisters should commit themselves to collaborate so that all persons may have the possibility to work and so that working conditions may always be more humane.

1 comment:

Gas said...

Noodles....I like this post. Really good stuff. You brought this up last night in the meeting, and I think the "be faithful in your work" part is an awesome point; good to remember when others around you get crooked.